What does poor or ineffective leadership look like, and what are the consequences of that?

What does poor or ineffective leadership look like, and what are the consequences of that?

Poor leadership, for me, is when you witness leaders who are out of touch with what is happening in their organization, their team environments, their customer environments, and the markets they serve.

You find that they spend all day in back-to-back meetings, stuck on their own personal hamster wheel, and trapped within their own bureaucratic cycles. They aren’t testing whether their contribution is needed or valuable in the fringe elements, nor are they pursuing meaningful action and contribution where it is most needed.

They simply don’t know what the challenges are nor are they committed to helping teams overcome those challenges. They may visit the team environment from time to time, but it’s more like a Royal visit where teams sweep problems under the rug and present a shiny façade for cursory inspection.


A great leader creates an environment where everything is transparent and visible.

A meaningful commitment to continuous improvement means that teams make problems visible and are transparent about how the problems arise, why they are present, and what options are available to resolve the problem.

They don’t hide things. They aren’t afraid to speak truth to power.

They understand that their leadership teams are supportive of the work they do and committed to an environment of continuous improvement. Committed to removing impediments and creating an environment where the team and organization can thrive.

Focus on what matters.

Poor leadership teams are focused on velocity.

They care about resource utilization, productivity, and ensuring that the numbers make them shine. A great leader focuses on effectiveness.

  • Are the team solving the most compelling problems?
  • Are the team creating the most valuable solutions?
  • Are the team optimizing for the whole system rather than local elements of the system?

And so forth.

People aren’t resources. They aren’t pawns on a chessboard.

A great agile leader focuses on how effectively and efficiently work flows through the system, and whether the team are continuously creating or capturing value for the customer.

People will focus on what you measure, so if you are focused on measing the wrong things, you are going to encourage people to deliver poor performances and irrelevant products. If you focus on value, your velocity will diminish, but the value you create will increase significantly.

Team Morale.

In any environment, you have people who are initially resistant to change and want to preserve the status quo at all costs, and you have people who are enthusiastic about delivering value and making a positive contribution to the organization, their team, and the clients they serve.

If you tolerate poor performances, fail to address poor behaviour, and are disinterested in what is happening in the team environment, you kill morale.

In my experience, it takes about 18 months.

18 months for you to lose your most valuable, committed, and skilled team members. 18 months before the people who genuinely care recognise that the status quo is here to stay and that their talent, efforts, and contribution is wasted in that kind of environment.

Run through a few 18-month cycles like this and your team is filled with people that you would never hire, and it’s virtually impossible to hire talented, creative and collaborative people who want to make an impact in the work they contribute.

Dead weight ruling the roost.

Agile Leadership

A great agile leadership is deeply invested in the team and organization’s success.

In agile, there is a beautiful phrase called ‘walk the gemba’ which means that you walk to the problem and inspect it carefully. It means that you invest time and effort with the team to understand their challenges and how you can best serve that team.

How you can actively solve problems and break the shackles that are holding the team captive.

There are many issues that are beyond the control and influence of the team, and a powerful executive or agile leader is exactly what they need to help them progress.

Take time to talk to customers. Heaps of customers.

Invest time and effort in understanding what matters most to customers, why it matters, and how your organization can help them achieve their jobs, goals, and objectives. Understand what causes frustration and pain in their world and commit to resolving the elements that fall under your control and influence.

A great agile leader does not get sucked into defending the team or the organization or the product, they are deeply committed to understanding how it currently contributes value, where it fails to contribute value, and what the value gap represents in terms of opportunity for improvement.

About John Coleman

John Coleman has deep experience and expertise working with executives, #leadership teams and product development teams to achieve increased #organizationalagility and create environments where creativity and collaboration produce high-performance teams.

https://linktr.ee/johncolemanxagility – social and podcast links

https://linkpop.com/orderlydisruption – order training from right here

If you are interested in helping your team or organization achieve greater agility and want to explore agile training options, visit our training page.

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Agile Leadership,Executive Agility
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